Tabata Time!

Today, we are wrapping up our September saving series with a post all about my favorite timesaving workout: TABATAS! My beautiful friend/coach/trainer extraodinaire Emily Celichowski of Love Life Be Fit introduced me to tabatas a few years ago, when I first started training with her. She loves them so much, she got a tabata tattoo! You know it has to be good if it's tattoo worthy.   

What's a tabata

A tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training made up of 8 rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. During those 20 seconds you work as hard as you can, then rest- deep breath! and jump right back in. The whole workout takes 4 minutes. JUST FOUR MINUTES. And if you're doing it right, you'll be sweaty and feeling like a champ by the end. 

Why do I love tabatas?

First of all, it's fun to say... tabata...TABAHHHHHTA... tabata! 

Moving on... 
I love that I can feel accomplished and sweaty and awesome in such a short time frame. 
I like to race myself too. 15 squats in round one! Let's see if I can beat that  (or maintain it!) for the remaining rounds. 
Tabatas keep workouts interesting. 
I get SO BORED doing long hauls of cardio. I think this why I never took to running. I really want to enjoy distance running, but about two miles in I'm like... okay cool. I get it. I'm running. Now what? 
So busting through a spicy tabata is more my style.

Tabatas produce great results!

One recent study at Auburn University Montgomery Kinesiology Laboratory in the US got participants to perform a four-minute Tabata session of body weight squat jumps. On average, they blasted away 13.5 calories per minute and doubled their metabolic rates for at least 30 minutes afterward. "It would take five times the amount of typical cardio exercise to shed the same number of calories you can in a four minute Tabata," said lead researcher, Dr Michele Olson.

How can you argue with that? 

Tabatas are customizable! 
Want to sprint? In the mood for squats? Is it a bonus abs kind of day? You can do any exercise in a tabata! Don't want to do 8 rounds of the same exercise? Try switching movements every other round. 

Tabatas are a mental workout
My mantra as I work through a tabata is "I can do anything for 20 seconds." Seriously. It's only 20 seconds. So when that plank becomes shaky, or I feel like my legs will crumble if I do one more squat, I remind myself that I can do anything for 20 seconds and to keep pushing through.
For me, tabata is just as much a mental workout as physical, and the focus I've developed while doing tabatas has translated to those longer endurance building workouts. I pick a duration of time to focus on; it may be 20 seconds or it may be one minute or 4 minutes, but I focus on working on that time frame and not worrying about what is next. 

Tabatas bust (almost) all my excuses for not working out! 

I am the queen of excuses. Seriously. I hate to admit it, but I'm REALLY good at talking myself out of things (Conversely, I'm also good at talking people into things).  Now that I've got a little babe at home, I've got a new host of excuse ammo. 

Making time for a quality workout each day can seem daunting. Working all day, hitting the gym for an hour, plus commuting- I get home and I'm exhausted. Where'd my day go? What about "me time?" I say this and I love working out, so I can imagine if your not all about them weights committing to a routine can be even more grueling. 

I don't have time
Do you have four minutes, Liz? I bet you do... Your spider solitaire game takes longer than that... Well! Conveniently, a tabata only takes four minutes. Zero set-up/tear-down required. 

I can't make it to the gym today because the husband has the car, baby needs to eat and nap, I need to do housework, I have to work late tonight, the dog ate it etc etc etc:
That's okay! Because guess what! You can do a tabata from the comfort of your own home! No special equipment or large amounts of space needed. 

I'm too sore/tired to workout today. And I'm grumpy. And it's raining.  
Recovery is DEFINITELY important and we all need days off. But if you think maybe you could handle four minutes of just goofing around, try a tabata dance party! 
Make it fun and less worky-outty (yes that's a word... now).
Dance like a maniac for 20 seconds, catch your breath and then try out some other moves. You'll be laughing and happy by the end :) 

I don't want to get sweaty
Got evening plans and glistening like a pig isn't on the list? I get it. Try some static movements, like planking or actively holding the bottom of the squat. You may not get the big cardio burn, but it'll still be super beneficial! 

What are some good tabata routines?

Again, tabatas are SUPER customizable. Pick a movement or two and go! Below are some of my favorite tabatas. Maybe you have more than four minutes to spare? Do a few tabatas in row and feel extra accomplished! 

  • Air Squats
    • For extra spicy fun, do an active hold at the bottom of the squat during the ten second rest.
  • Alternate mountain climbers and fast feet
  • Burpees
    • Everyone loves burpees!
  • Plank hold
    • Rotate forearm plank to left side plank to forearm plank to right side plank
  • Squat jumps
    • Pro tip: pretend you're a super hero and this will be more fun... 
  • Bonus abs: alternate flutter kicks and sit-ups
  • Alternating lunges and Russian twists


So what's keeping you from being active each day? Time? Money? Motivation?
Tell me all about it! 



Now that I've written this post...I have zero excuses... off to tabata my boda...


Can you really get fit with a one-minute workout? Sports scientists say that short bursts of exercise can be more effective than hours in the gym. Peta Bee reports. (2013, September 7).
Times [London, England], p. 6. Retrieved from